Tag Archives: Assessments

Post-Quiz Discussion

Every Friday I give a quiz [1]. I know some teachers are against that, but it helps establish a routine, students expect it (no more “what, there’s a quiz today?!?”), and it gets my class into a rhythm so I know I need to cut out unnecessary fluff if we’re working too long on one topic[2].

Anyway, I’ve always struggled with what to do after a quiz. Last week I tried something new that I think I’m going to do more often next year. After they turned in their papers, I gave students the quiz on Google Classroom [3]. But this time the whole class is sharing the same quiz. So students who did well on the quiz can jump on and start answer the questions. Students who didn’t do so well can jump on and ask questions (or just watch to see what the answers are… including work shown.) The whole class does a collaborative effort (ideally).

Students seemed to like the idea. I don’t know if it’s the novelty for most of them, but several definitely liked the immediate feedback this offered. Of course we could just go over the quiz, but this is so much more interactive (and immediate). Also, I can keep an eye out for misconceptions that the whole class has on certain topics.

There was some distraction, but fortunately in Google Classroom I can see all edits, so I warned students not to put anything on there that they would be ashamed to show their parents.

2nd Period Chemistry:

4th Period Chemistry:

What do you do in your post-quiz time when students finish at different rates?

[1] Right now this is only in Chemistry, but I’m hoping to do at least some sort of adaptive checkup in Precal and Physics next year.

[2] Some topics take longer, but I hope that the flexibility in adjusting labs allows me to be adaptive and yet rigid at the same time.

[3] If you don’t have Google classroom, you can still share the quiz with students by collecting their e-mail addresses and sharing the document with everyone in the class.


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SBG & Student Struggles

Today was frustrating for me. I recognize that it’s one of those things where one bad experience, even in an otherwise very good day, just turns your day bad. I’ll try to explain concisely.

A student, let’s call the student J, didn’t want to take a quiz for which he was absent during his “study hall” (we call it Academic Support) because he had homework which was due the next period.

My furious personal thoughts: “But you’ve known since last week that this quiz was to happen on Friday and when you were absent during my class on Friday you told me that you would take this on Monday and now it’s Monday and you’re refusing to take the quiz!!!”

So I told him “No, you have to take the quiz first”. He responded with “Okay, give me the quiz, I’ll just write my name on it and give it back to you”, knowing full well that students can retake quizzes for full credit. Not only that, but he knows that I will hound him and force him to retake the quiz until he does better, so from his point of view he “doesn’t have to worry about it.”

I confided my frustration with a fellow teacher.  This teacher does not use SBG and has deadlines for students that are immovable. He pointed out that for my class, failing the quiz was a “chronic” problem, whereas finishing the homework for this other teacher, who had deadlines, was a “crises” problem. The student views the latter as more immediate and therefore more important, whether rightly or wrongly so, so when given 50 minutes to do work, the student will choose the latter. This teacher confided how some students, who don’t do their work, are relieved to find out that they missed a deadline because it’s no longer hanging over their head. He confided that he would rather them be incredibly disappointed rather than relieved, and I wanted to shout “But is this what is best for the students?!? To be left off the hook???”

My first thought was “okay, how can I move my work to ‘crises’ level for the student without setting a deadline because I believe in retakes for students and a growth mindset.”[1] So I sent a long e-mail to the single mother of this child (who I was informed had been in the hospital last week), asking for the student to study at home and to come in to my tutoring sessions here a school. My next thought was “how can I make the student’s life miserable so that he caves in and studies? He’s already 4 quizzes (weeks) behind his peers and I need to get him to study on his own at home. So I’m going to require him to bring his lunch into my classroom and study. Want to goof off at home and not study? Okay, you’ll lose your lunch here at school.

But do I really want to make an antagonist out of this student? Just because he’s frustrated me once several times, should I make him view me as his enemy? One of the things I like about SBG is how it’s easy to show the students that we’re on their side. This is tough for me to do, but perhaps it’s the “tough love” action that I need to take. As long as I do it out of care for the student and not spite, then it can and will be the right thing to do.

While I’m on that, I need to look back because there are other students who haven’t pushed my buttons but who are doing just as poorly in class. I need to mandate that they come to tutoring as well (I’ve done this for a few students…). I think I’m going to make a sign-in sheet for the students so that’s one less thing I have to keep track of. Then again, I’ll have to chase them down if they’re not there… but at least I’m doing what’s right.

Any ideas to help out with this situation? [2]

[1] Actually my first, first thought is “all teachers should allow retakes/extensions of deadlines so that this doesn’t happen!”.

[2] That felt better just to get that off my chest. Thanks, #MTBoS


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An SBG Finals Idea

How about this for an idea for finals within a Standards Based Grading context:

Instead of giving a separate test or final, students may request to take certain standard.  Let’s say Alice is okay with “Fractions”, but needs to work on “Decimals” and “Linear Equations” (grossly oversimplified standards, but just for the sake of example, bear with me).  Alice can choose which ones she wants to retake so she doesn’t have to “worry” about Fractions. It’s basically a student-initiated assessment which is compulsory for students who are too low on their standards.

Some notes:

  • This would be in the context of a class that has already “spiraled”, meaning, Alice has already repeatedly shown that she’s fine with Fractions–the teacher isn’t relying on a single quiz or test she took 4 months ago.  By “repeatedly” I mean for that to include that the class has spiraled back on that standard within the last month.
  • The grade-book is one that takes into consideration more than just the most recent standard. Right now my plan is to average the most recent two, which rewards students who have studied and repeatedly shown that they’ve met standards.  This would prevent students from jumping from 0% to 100% on any standard.
  • Students grades can go down!  This is so a student doesn’t request to take all the standards and just pick and choose the one he/she remembers so that they might (shot in the dark) increase their grade.  They have to be confident of what they’re doing.
  • Perhaps I’ll include that students must attempt a certain # of standards.  However, if the spiraling has been successful, “not having a final” would be a nice reward for students who have worked hard and already demonstrated mastery on all the standards (how often does this occur?).

I think I like this better than my last idea for SBG finals. Even though Hedge (@approx_normal) favorited my tweet, getting favorited by “Captain Bad Idea” is a little like being applauded by Captain Obvious for an observation…

As always, please leave critical feedback, especially if you’ve tried this before.

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LaTeX for Assessments

Long story short:

  • I wanted more ram but didn’t want to shell out $$$ for Windows 8. (Had 32-bit Windows 7.)
  • Switched to Ubuntu (12.10 at the time) once I bought a 4GB ram stick (they’re cheap these days!!)
  • Need to edit documents so used LibreOffice.  However, it doesn’t play super-nice with graphics and some other things so…
  • Found WPS (Chinese-made MS Word rip-off).  Works nice with .doc files, even looks and feels like Word 2010.  Except it’s not at all compatible with .docx files.
  • WPS also doesn’t use equations, but I (being a Math + Science teacher) need to write equations on assessments.
  • I also am moving to SBG, so I’d like to be able to clearly mark what students earned.

I was watching participating in this Global Math meeting where this guy (also has 1st name Jonathan) was sharing and he mentioned that he uses LaTeX for all of his assessments. I thought “awesome, but I haven’t used that since Grad School”.  But decided to go to his blog anyway and he has this page dealing with how to use LaTeX as a math teacher.

I guess the page isn’t super-friendly if you’ve never used LaTeX before, but he (Jonathan Claydon) points that out on the page.  And for someone like me, who used LaTeX long ago and dabbles in computer science (by “dabble”, I mean it in the “I-put-a-tiny-fraction-of-my-small-toenail-in-the-pool” sense of the word), it’s just perfect.  So now I’m making assessments for next year and adding a header for students to really understand what SBG is all about.

Check out my first assessment below (Yes, I’m giving these to Jr’s and Sr’s in Precalculus, and no, I’m not confident that they will all ace them…) and please give feedback.

Edit: now that I published this, the pdfs don’t look nearly as nice on Scribd as they do “in person” (when you download them).

Note that these standards are much broader than the ones that I’ll actually be teaching: this is just to make sure that they have the “basics” before we really get into Precalculus–otherwise they’ll be “up that creek”. I hope to be much more specific in my assessments and standards when we get to Precalculus topics.  I’ll also be incorporating some ideas from this year’s tiered assessments–more on that to come.

I’ll be using these Google Spreadsheets to keep track of their progress, and I hope that they will catch on pretty quickly what the heck SBG is.

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SBG Idea: Final Exam Exchange

The Setting

It’s the middle of exam week and mentally I’ve already moved on to next year.  I am so ready to start SBG (Stanards Based Grading) that I’m actually a little sick and embarrassed of my finals this year.

But I started to wonder “what’s the role of final exams in SBG?”  As soon as I started looking, I realized how silly it is of me to think that I’m the first to have thought of that.  There are great posts dedicated to this topic from Shawn Cornally, from Jason Buell, from Frank Noschese, and from Daniel Schneider.

As I was reading these posts, I had an idea.

An Idea

What if we (the mathtwitterblogosphere) had an exchange of finals, and made it sorta a competition between students (for the students’ sake, not for the teacher’s egos and definitely not for administrators to wield as a “we’re better than you” tool weapon).  I think my students would be way more motivated by me saying “hey, here’s another teacher’s final–show me how well you can do on it because you know each of these skills!”

The other thing this would do, which would interest me as a teacher, is it would remove the “specifics” of my assessments which might inadvertently help students out, and I could really see how well they know the standards.

Must Be Careful Of…

I guess we need to be careful with other’s finals that they don’t fly out into the greater community (read: students cheating).

Another thing is that I (and whoever would try this with me) would have to be careful not to give assessments that rely on knowledge that is so specific to the course that it is not immediately transferable to the same course at a different school or taught by a different teacher. I think that in the long run this is a good thing because it forces us to focus on what’s important. (I mean, that’s the goal of SBG, right?)  And by “focus” I mean focus our teaching, HW, prior assessments, explanations: the whole shebang. (Is that how you spell “shebang”?)

Different schools provide different amounts of time for finals… consider the problems that go with that.

Last Thoughts

Often times I’ll blog about something that came to me and I thought was an awesome idea.  Then I’ll look back on it a few days later and think “meh”.  This idea is already starting to look “meh” in my mind, but feel free to run with it as you like.

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Socrative to the Rescue?

I’m terrible at printing tests and quizzes before they’re due, and one day I’ll learn my lesson.  I thought that would be today because the printer jammed on me 4 times in a row.  I only had 45 minutes until the start of the day, and I was giving a test AND a quiz in two different classes.

All week, students had been using Socrative for the iPad, and so I thought “hey, I could probably copy and paste all the questions from Word to Socrative in time.”  So I did.  About 40 questions later, I was ready to go, and my thought was “whew, Socrative saved me!”, but I hadn’t quite thought through all the difficulties taking a quiz or a test like this might pose.


Saves paper (trees?).  Students still use scrap paper to show work, but I didn’t run 80 copies to be handed out.

All my math assessments are open-ended responses (not multiple choice).  Socrative has an open-ended (short answer) response option so it was actually pretty fast to transfer the quiz questions.

As students are working, they can’t cheat off each other because they’re only working on one question at a time.  Some students tried, but quickly gave up when their peers outpaced them because they hadn’t studied.

The Excel sheet it outputs gives me a nice overview of where the class stands.  Even the open-ended response, which I have to grade myself, I can use background colors on excel to mark wrong answers and see where everyone is at a glance.


I have to grade looking at paper (where they showed their work) and the computer (Excel).  I believe work is essential to understanding a student’s misconceptions and the simple input box format just isn’t good for showing math calculations.

Students may retake my quizzes, and I encourage them to use the quizzes to study for the retake (I try to make them very different).  However, unless I do something fancy with Google Spreadsheets, and/or print off a bunch of quiz results, students will not be walking home with a quiz that they can study.

Students also do “test corrections”, where they write down (on a separate sheet of paper) what they got wrong and why they got it wrong (reflection).  Again, figuring this out with a single Excel sheet for the class is difficult.

Student can only work on one question at a time.  They can’t “skip and come back” (good test-taking strategy) nor can they go back if they remembered a previous question.  Also, with my Tiered Assessments, students like to see “Okay, what’s worth an A?  What’ worth a B? etc.”  Here, they’re forced to take it one at a time.  I suppose one could argue that this is a good thing, but I don’t think so on these assessments.

If students hit the wrong button (“Submit” too early, or click the wrong answer), because there is no way to go back, then students could get a wrong answer even if they knew how to do it correctly and did it correctly.  I got around this by telling them to write on their “work” paper if they did this, and to tell me what the correct answer is, so I can override their accidental entry.  However, this is one more thing I have to check when comparing the Excel sheet and the paper.


You can decide for yourself whether this would be a good situation or not, but unless I can figure out some better way for students to record more information per question, in a nice mathematical format, I think I’ll be sticking to pen/pencil and paper.

I’ve also asked students to blog about their experience, so we’ll see what they say about that.  I’ve already gotten the obligatory “I like this” and “I hate this” responses, so we’ll see how well they can articulate those reactions.

Of course, right as I finished typing the final question, I heard the copier start up across the hall and roll of several dozen sheets without jamming.

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Tiered Assessments Take Over

So I’ve been using the tiered assessments more and more these days, and I am really, really liking it.  Perhaps it’s just a taste of what SBG would be if I were to actually try it, but this has been a great “first step”.  In fact, I’m using it so much, that just the other day in Physics, when I gave them a “normal” quiz, I actually felt guilty that I hadn’t properly assessed the students and allowed them to show me what they know!  I felt so guilty that I gave them another quiz, this time based on the tiered assessment idea, and allowed it to replace their first quiz grade!!  Oh, and they all bombed the 1st quiz and aced the 2nd quiz.  Well, they did significantly better, but I’ll bet a large part of that is because I reviewed with the mistakes game on whiteboards, which worked out really well (I gave each group a different question from the first quiz).

Oh, and here are some tiered assessment quizzes for you to peruse and critique!




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